Politicians call for turbine moratorium; Hudak, Allison urge McGuinty to hold off until Health Canada study complete
Local politicians and residents are urging Ontario’s premier to put an immediate moratorium on industrial wind turbine development until a federal health study is complete.
“West Niagara residents have continued to express to me very strong concerns about the potential health effects of these massive industrial wind turbine projects that are slated for their communities,” said Niagara West-Glanbrook MPP and Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak, who was joined by his federal counterpart, MP Dean Allison, in calling for an immediate moratorium until a federal health study, announced in July, is complete.
Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced the study July 10 “in response to questions from residents living near wind farms, about possible health effects of low-frequency noise generated by wind turbines.” The study will initially focus on residents in 2,000 dwellings selected from eight to 12 wind-turbine installations across Canada. Health Canada said researchers will conduct face-to-face interviews with residents, as well as taking physical measurements such as blood pressure, and measuring noise levels both inside and outside some of the homes. The study is being designed with support from external experts, specializing in areas including noise, health assessment, clinical medicine and epidemiology.
“Beyond the possible effects on health, the Liberal government’s entire FIT program is nothing more than an expensive mess,” added Hudak who, along with several members of the PC caucus, has more than once asked Dalton McGuinty for a moratorium. “It’s driven up our energy bills and stripped away local decision making. That’s why the Ontario PC Caucus and I have introduced motions and legislation to put in place a moratorium on these projects, restore local decision making and end the FIT program.”
Under the FIT program, two industrial wind turbine projects have been approved for the West Lincoln area. The first, a five-turbine operation in the Caistor Centre area proposed by IPC Energy, was approved in the first round of the program and is awaiting provincial approval. The second, a much larger 230-megawatt operation, proposed by Niagara Region Wind Corp., which will see 77 of the storeys-high towers erected across West Lincoln and into neighbouring Pelham and Haldimand, is expected to wrap up its final studies in mid-fall and submit its application for a renewable energy approval from the province.
“I have discussed the concerns of Niagara West-Glanbrook residents several times over the last month with the minister of health and, as a result, this new study will look at the possible health effects of low frequency noise generated by wind turbines,” said Allison. “As always, our government is putting the health and safety of Canadians first and this study will do just that by painting a more complete picture of the potential health impacts of turbine noise.”
Since the IPC project was first announced, opposition has been strong in the community. Shortly after the announcement, residents opposing the project came together to form the West Lincoln Action Group. The group has long said that more studies are needed to prove there are no health impacts from the wind turbines. And while the announcement of a federal health study is welcome news, it needs to look at more issues than just sound said the group’s spokesperson.
“It’s like going to the doctor and saying I have a health problem and the doctor says come over here and let me look at your ear and then sends you off,” said Cam Pritchard. “A doctor doesn’t just look at your ear, he looks at the whole body. And I think the federal and provincial governments should do complete studies not just partial ones.”
Pritchard and his fellow wind opponents would like to see a complete study on the issue, taking a look at issues like property devaluation, total health impact and economics.
“If you come out and say there is no health impact and yet people are still being made sick from turbines, did you do your due diligence?” asked Pritchard, who joins Allison and Hudak in calling for a complete moratorium until the study is completed. “Did they do a full study? They can’t just look at sound, they have to expand on the whole situation the real estate, the social, the health, the economics. It really needs to be opened up.”
And while opponents are cautiously optimistic about the study, proponents of wind power are welcoming it.
“Absolutely, we believe the more information the better,” Randi Rahamim, spokesperson for Niagara Region Corp. said when asked if her organization supported the study. “Especially if it helps allay some of the fears and concerns of local residents.”
Rahamim is confident the federal study will have similar results as one conducted by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer Of Health in 2010, which found no evidence that wind turbines have an adverse impact on public health.
“We rely on the experts in the field, including both provincial experts and federal experts,” Rahamim said. “Studies have shown there are no known health impacts, and we believe that to be true. We believe there is a lot of information out there already that are indicative of the lack of impacts. That be said, if residents feel a federal review is important to them, then we welcome it.”
The results of the Health Canada study are expected to be released in 2014.
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